An hour before the competition started I went out on to the field, as I always do to prepare for battle. As I walked through the infield covered with athletes bodies I got the weird sense that everybody was looking at me. Everyone was smiling. Hmm….how odd?
As I stretched and did some running drills to warm up I noticed athletes and coaches looking over at me pointing, watching, seemingly my every move? Strange, very strange.
For the first time in my life I actually felt out of place on an athletics track, like I shouldn’t be there. I looked around me at all the young athletes and became very aware of my advanced age. The next oldest athlete was 22-year-old Chris Hill, America’s number one thrower in 2009. I was 25-years older then him – a quarter of a century – and almost 30 years older than some of the others.
I then looked around at the coaches and realised I was older than most of them too. Fortunately, it was when I looked at the officials I found a little comfort, finally there were some people out there close to my age, even a little older.
From that point on my focus came back to throwing and the competition. I had a mission to accomplish. Nothing could distract me now.
Despite the 18 other competitors there that day, they were not my rivals. I was the only competition. It was me against myself, against my aging body. I had to put aside concerns of injury, block out pain and discomfort and thoughts of embarrassing myself in front of all these people.
Ninety minutes later, at the conclusion of the meet depsite coming second, I had smashed 12 UK national age records: six UK javelin age records for a 47-year-old – the furthest by 10 metres And six UK age group records (45-49) with the best throw of 69.54m improving on the previous mark by over six metres. My performance also put me on top of the 2010 world veterans rankings.
After the competition I signed some autographs and posed for a few photographs with my fellow javelin throwers. They all had this look of disbelief. They could not understand or explain my presence, my unusual technique or my performance. One athlete seemingly dazed told me, “Don’t take this the wrong way Mr Bradstock, but I have never been so humiliated in all my life? You’re older than my Dad.” I took that as a compliment.
I walked out the stadium and met my wife who had been watching from the stands. Now she had a weird smile on her face. She gave me a hug and explained her bemusement. During the competition her husband – that would be me – had apparently been a great source of entertainment on the bleachers.
Each time I got on the run-up the people in the stands commented, “Look Grandpa is going to throw again”. The people sitting next to my wife referred to me as the Star Wars character “Yoda”. My age was an on going topic of conversation. Apparently the estimates ranged from early 70’s to mid 50’s – Yikes. I know I am old but that old?
As we walked back to the car I found myself beginning to smile. It had been a good day and a new experience for me, one more competition under my belt, one step closer to 2012. I was healthy, injury free and ready for my next competition.
Read previous Roald Bradstock blogs here.
Roald Bradstock represented Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and in 1996 was an alternate for United States Olympic team. Bradstock competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 United States Olympic Trials. He has now switched his allegiance back to Britain and hopes to compete in the trials for London 2012. In addition to being an Olympic athlete, Bradstock is also an Olympic artist dubbed “The Olympic Picasso”